England’s Smoking Ban Led To Fewer Hospitalizations, Historic Numbers Of People Quitting

England’s ban on smoking in indoor public places has been linked to a 5 percent annual drop in adult hospital admissions for asthma, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Thorax, looked at the number of asthma-related emergency hospital admissions in England from 1997 to 2010, taking into account seasonal temperatures, changes in population size and long term trends in the prevalence of asthma. It found that since the smoking ban was implemented in July 2007, there have been 1,900 fewer asthma-related hospital admissions per year.

The study echoes other findings on the health benefits of England’s ban, which was implemented as part of a U.K.-wide effort to prohibit smoking in indoor public spaces:

  • The ban led to the largest decrease in smoking ever seen in England, with an estimated 400,000 people quitting smoking in the year after the ban was implemented, according to survey findings.
  • Asthma-related hospital admissions of children fell by 12.3 percent in the first year after the ban, and in each of the following two years fell again by more than 3 percent. Another study on a smoking ban in Scotland yielded similar results.
  • Hospital admissions for heart attacks dropped by 2.4 percent, or 1,200 patients, in the first year after the ban.

The study’s results aren’t surprising — secondhand smoke is a known trigger of asthma, and previous studies done outside of the U.K. have also linked smoking bans to a range of health benefits. One 2012 study, which examined the effects of smoking bans in a Minnesota county, found the bans contributed to a 33 percent drop in heart attacks and a 17 percent drop in the incidence of sudden cardiac death. Another, which examined reports on smoking bans in multiple countries and U.S. cities, found the bans were linked to a 15 percent decrease in hospitalizations caused by heart attacks and a 16 percent decrease in stroke-related hospitalizations. In addition, the second study found the more comprehensive the smoking ban, the greater the health benefits.

And in contrast to critics’ claims that they stifle business, smoking bans have been found to have economic benefits as well. A report from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation last year found states that invested in anti-tobacco programs and legislation saved significantly on health care expenditures, and last month New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg lauded the city’s 2003 Smoke-Free Air Act, which prohibited smoking in restaurants and bars, as part of the reason for the 47 percent increase in the number of bars and restaurants across the city in the last 10 years.